A Kamloops bike company is volunteering time, skills and tools to help a local school launch a new inclusive cycling program for students.

Bike mechanics from District Bicycle Co. are heading to A.V. Perry Elementary School today, March 1, to build and fix a fleet of bikes and train educators on how to maintain them.

“It is really important to highlight how hard educators have worked to make this happen, to get the grants, to do that,” co-owner Dave McInnes said. “It's rad for us to be able to help support and build bikes but we’re by far not the only ones putting in effort to get this off the ground.”

McInnes said a few elementary schools in the district received funding from Outride this year. Outride is an American-based organization that partners with communities to promote cycling as a way to increase wellness and mental health for riders. They also aim to increase access to cycling for underrepresented demographic groups.

“We’re training teachers to maintain bikes for the long-term, you have to be sustainable,” McInnes said. “If one or two key people move or change jobs, the program can fall apart. We’re hoping to help educators have a leg up, work on the bikes themselves and have an avenue to the shop to make it more affordable to keep those bikes running.”

McInnes said there are many cases where bikes are donated to after-school programs but this doesn’t always connect with kids who have never learned to ride one. He said the new Outride program is much different.

“Educators go to a curriculum training program for bikes which is worked into a physical education class,” he said. “Kids get some experience on the bikes and learn to ride them which opens up so many avenues.”

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McInnes is a passionate advocate for cycling in the community, with a big focus on community development and inclusion. He organizes several group rides every week that serve all levels of riders and hosts a monthly barbecue at his store for riders.

“When I first started riding there was a too cool for school type of mentality in a lot of shops and I think that can be intimidating to a lot of people getting into the sport, so it’s nice to change that vibe up a bit and have anyone welcome to come in.”

Bike mechanic Brett Riel at District Bicycle Co. in Kamloops.
Bike mechanic Brett Riel at District Bicycle Co. in Kamloops.

He recently did a talk about electric bikes in collaboration with the Kamloops Advanced Learning Society and works with a local cycling union putting on events for a youth downhill racing team. He’s participating in a thesis study at the university around cycling infrastructure and the lack of connected paths in the city.

“Infrastructure is expensive and there is still a divide in terms of whether it is important enough to allocate tax payer dollars to resources,” McInnes said. “The reality is money has to come from somewhere to do it and it takes a lot of effort, time and data to show communities it’s worthwhile.”

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McInnes said programs like Outride are important because they create a love for cycling and the health benefits that come along with it from a young age.

“It makes it easier down the road to move into those infrastructure projects to have a base of people who’ve been doing it their whole lives that agree with the benefits.”

He said several associations in the city are working to improve cycling infrastructure but have yet to “harness all that passion into a unified plan.”

McInnes loves to pay his love for riding forward wherever he can.

“There was a time in my life where I can literally say cycling saved my life, in terms of giving me direction,’ he said. “I was floating around Edmonton not knowing what I wanted to do and had some mental health things going on. Riding gave me this outlet and ticked all these boxes I didn’t know I needed and I’ve never looked back.”

District Bicycle Co. has many community events coming up this year including the weekly group rides, and is opening a shop at Sun Peaks this summer.

School District 73 did not respond to iNFOnews request for comment in time for publication.

Go here to learn more about Outride. 

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